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Advice for Sister in Law
Old 04-11-2018, 09:52 AM   #1
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Advice for Sister in Law

For the first time my SIL (husband's sister) has asked us for advice. I am shocked and concerned about her financial situation. She is divorced, no children, age 62 and we are her only living family. She has worked most of her life as a legal secretary (she is an excellent typist) but was laid off 6 months ago (we don't know the circumstances of the lay off). Her unemployment and severance has ended. She says she has diligently tried to find jobs (secretarial and otherwise) and has had quite a few interviews but has not gotten an offer. Evidently the market for good typists has dried up because of technology (everyone types for themselves or uses voice software).

Specifically SIL asked our advice about starting SS at 62. We then asked about her finances and were dismayed to find out they were very bad. She has no pension, IRA, 401k or other retirement account (when we asked why not she said she just never put anything in!!!). She has the proceeds from the sale of a house she and her ex husband owned (not sure of exact amount, maybe around $100,000). Evidently in the divorce a couple of years ago she gave up all rights to her husband's retirement and other assets in exchange for the house proceeds.

She spends way over her means--expensive apartment, expensive leased car (one time my DH had advised her that leasing a car was a bad idea but she did it anyway), expensive dog. We "think" she has health insurance through the ACA but she was a little vague in this. She claims she can live on $30,000 a year but we don't see how unless she drastically cuts expenses.

The only money she has coming in is from some typing/transcription she does at home (around $6000/year). She says she is trying to increase this business but there is not much demand for typists these days.

We have advised her that she needs to get a job, any kind of job and if at all possible delay taking SS so that it would increase over the years. On SS she would get around $1,300/month at age 62 and of course more if she delays. We have also told her if she does take SS now she can only make around $17,000 year in wages in order to not have her SS reduced. We asked about her ex husband's SS (they were married 20 years) but she says he does not get SS since he was a U.S. Post Office employee. Does anyone know if this is correct?

We have advises her to cut expenses, delay SS, and FIND A JOB. She asked us for advice about finding a job. It has been along time since we had to find a job, any suggestions that we can give her about job hunting? I know she looks at various job sites online and makes online applications. Since she is an excellent typist/transcriptionist and already has a few typing clients is there anyway she can increase this business? how could this be advertised? She thinks her age is working against her in finding a job, this is probably true.

Any advice you could give us to pass onto SIL would be appreciated. She is a sweet, nice person, she just doesn't seem to have a lot of common sense when it comes to finances.

Thanks!
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Old 04-11-2018, 10:18 AM   #2
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I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but "get a job, any job" is way too often much harder than it seems. She's 62, and apparently little transferable skills. One practical suggestion might be good ol' fashioned cold calling (i.e., going in person, not telephone) smaller local companies that might have a need for a mature admin assistant.
If she can't find a job, at some point she'll likely have no choice but to start collecting S.S.
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Old 04-11-2018, 10:24 AM   #3
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Wow- that's pretty sad. What do you think she'd be able to collect if she filed for SS now?

AARP has a lot of resources on its Web site for people over 50 looking for jobs. Haven't checked it out myself.

You said she's a good typist; how are her computer skills? She might want to try taskrabbit.com. It requires an extensive registration process but it might provide her some short-term gigs similar to what she already does.
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Old 04-11-2018, 10:24 AM   #4
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I always find it Shocking when I hear of someone near retirement age that has zero saved for retirement due to simply never bothering to get around to it.

I suggest she sign up for linked in, as sometimes you get a job offer before it even gets posted to the random job boards.

Besides being a typist, her skills are other things, like office management? , scheduling ? , things that would be part of a legal secretary role.
She needs to list her familiarity with various programs, like Word, Excel, etc.

I'll bet she is not being forth right in her spending, and actually is probably spending a LOT more than she lets on... while not worrying about tomorrow. This is why only after her unemployment and severance ended has she realized the gravy train is slowing down.

You are totally correct she needs to reduce spending, and drastically:
If her apt is a 2 bedroom, she either needs to move to a 1 bedroom, or get a room-mate.
How much is her car actually NEEDED, it may be cheaper to bus/taxi/uber or at least get rid of the expensive car and buy a basic cheap small car like the Elantra that is 2-3 yrs old.

Her $100,000 needs to last 30 years, so she really should only spend $4,000 / year out of it.

How has she got the $100,000 invested ? since she didn't save for retirement, I'm thinking it is poorly invested. Watch out she doesn't get sold by a FA for mutual funds with loads on them.
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Old 04-11-2018, 10:30 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by mystang52 View Post
I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but "get a job, any job"



Sad but this story is typical America, really no choice but to work
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Old 04-11-2018, 10:33 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by harllee View Post
We have advises her to cut expenses, delay SS, and FIND A JOB.
Good advice.

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She asked us for advice about finding a job. It has been along time since we had to find a job, any suggestions that we can give her about job hunting?
Instead of limiting herself to what she can find online, she should also drive around looking for help wanted signs.

If she can't do better, she should get a job at a local supermarket or McDonalds for now. Then keep looking for something more lucrative.
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Old 04-11-2018, 10:35 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by mystang52 View Post
I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but "get a job, any job" is way too often much harder than it seems.
I have to disagree.
There are plenty of jobs in supermarkets, other retail, fast food, etc.

They may be minimum wage, but that's more than $0.
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Old 04-11-2018, 10:36 AM   #8
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... already has a few typing clients is there anyway she can increase this business? how could this be advertised? ...
I have sort of a standard speech I give to my SCORE clients about starting their business, which is basically what your SIL is looking at here.

Network. Network. Network.

Start by calling clients and friends with something like this: "I am looking to expand my business support services business. Right now I am doing transcriptions and ... (describe capabilities briefly but not too narrowly). I am looking for advice. Do you have any ideas for me?"

People love to give advice, so most of these calls will result in conversations and advice. Some of the advice will be good, some not so good, but everyone will probably be helpful and positive. The calls should not be limited to clients. Attorneys, insurance agents, former employers and colleagues, personal friends and acquaintances, etc. Anyone with even a tenuous connection should be contacted.

Near the end of the conversation, ask "Do you know of anyone who might also have some advice for me?" This will yield another set of names to call. And, when calling, Say something like "Susy Johnson gave me your name and said that you might be willing to give me some advice on a business I'm trying to develop." This is subtle, but the recipient of the call will feel some obligation because Susy made an implicit promise. It does work.

By working hard at this she will develop a network, many of whom are worthwhile staying in touch with: "Hi Fred, this is Rita Jones. A few weeks ago you gave me some good advice about xxx and I just wanted thank you again and give you an update." These follow-up calls keep her near top-of-mind and have the potential for the contact to remember her and refer to her when he/she hears of an opportunity.

To make this work, she needs at least a rudimentary CRM (Customer Relationship Managment) system. This can be as simple as some index cards with names, notes, and next-contact-time schedules. Better, it can be a simple spreadsheet that can be sorted by next-contact-time and other contact attributes.

It is important to always be asking for advice and never to be asking for a job or trying to sell.

My impression is that many churches have job networking groups. She should look for these and for other networking opportunities, although my secondhand impression is that these groups are often not very effective. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, however.

Long. Sorry.
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Old 04-11-2018, 10:36 AM   #9
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^^^^ great advice... and leverage her existing client base by asking happy clients for referrals.... so when a client thanks her when she delivers a job she can say "You're welcome. I'm actually looking to do more so if you have additional work or have colleagues who I could help I would appreciate any referrals that you might be able to provide".

If her ex earned a lot more and his FRA benefit is more than $2,600/month then her benefit would be more than the $1,300/month that she would receive based on her work record.... and it doesn't affect what he gets. See https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/divspouse.html

That said, for a single person, taking SS early is not necessarily a horrible thing IMO since the discounts are designed to be actuarial neutral... in fact, since they are uni-sex, one could argue that it is beneficial for a healthy woman to take SS early and the reality might be that she has little choice.

It also looks like she need to rightsize her life.... housing, car, etc.

Has she tried linking up with any of the temporary help places? For either legal secretary or executive assistant or CSR work, etc.

Finally, given her current lack of income, she probably qualifies for Medicaid or a highly subsidized ACA policy.
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Old 04-11-2018, 10:44 AM   #10
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OP here, I think SIL is on Linked In--I will follow up on that and task rabbit and AARP. I think her $100,000 is in a savings account. We have suggested a credit union that pays much better, we suggested some in a MM and some in a CD ladder at the Credit Union. Someone asked about her SS amount now, I think it is around $1300/month. SIL is very vague on the numbers. We totally agree about her cutting expenses but we can't do it for her.
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Old 04-11-2018, 10:49 AM   #11
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Thanks to OldShooter and PB4uski for the great advice, especially the networking, I will pass it all on.

Regarding her getting more SS by applying for ex husband's SS, we asked her about that and SIL says that ex husband does not qualify for SS because he did not pay into SS since he worked for the US postal service. Does that sound right?
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Old 04-11-2018, 10:56 AM   #12
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SIL says that ex husband does not qualify for SS because he did not pay into SS since he worked for the US postal service. Does that sound right?
Not necessarily.
https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/fedgovees.html
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Old 04-11-2018, 11:06 AM   #13
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..... She claims she can live on $30,000 a year but we don't see how unless she drastically cuts expenses.....
She clearly needs some sort of reality check but it might be easy. If she hasn't saved anything then presumably she has been spending her net pay so her net pay on her last paystub each year is what she spent (or she can calculate it from her W-2 information).

The reality is that she has at most $15,600 from SS if she takes it now, say $5k a year from her savings, plus whatever she makes from working. The sooner that she gets real to that and rightsizes her lifestyle then the better off she will be.... or find an affluent live-in boyfriend or husband.
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Old 04-11-2018, 11:06 AM   #14
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Such a sad situation for her to be in. All the above is good advice. I would also include networking thru her church if she belongs.

harlee, in order for you to give good direction, she will have to share with you complete, detailed financial information. As always, start with a detailed budget and know what can be eliminated as necessary. Then a SS statement of benefits and any SS benefits from a previous marriage(s). Using one of the many retirement calculators mentioned on this board is a great at to clarify her situation. Only by knowing her expenses and income streams , both immediate and future, an you give any meaningful advice. Anything short of that could be disastrous IMO. GIGO!
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The hard truth is SIL can't retire yet
Old 04-11-2018, 12:16 PM   #15
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The hard truth is SIL can't retire yet

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunset View Post

Besides being a typist, her skills are other things, like office management? , scheduling ? , things that would be part of a legal secretary role.
She needs to list her familiarity with various programs, like Word, Excel, etc.
+1

I'd bet she is underselling her skill set. It's only natural for someone who held the same job for a long time to attempt to replicate that job, but she undoubtedly did, and could do, a hundred other things besides type. She didn't just type, she edited. She didn't just answer phones, she did scheduling. She didn't just order paper for the printer, she managed inventory. She didn't just file wills and deeds, she maintained security over confidential documents.

And lots of job descriptions she might qualify for specifically include references to widely-used software programs, but if she doesn't mention them in her resume then her application will be weeded out early.

Yeah, her age probably works against her. But she can't change it, so forget about it and focus on her strengths. Perhaps OP could steer DSIL to a professional career counselor who could coach her on getting her job search in gear.
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Old 04-11-2018, 12:25 PM   #16
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I would avoid the words typist or typing in any resume or job application, and look up those tools and words that are better resume-hooks these days. Can she run an office? Organize? Plan travel? Legal-Sec'y also sounds like an outdated title. But it sounds far better than someone being marketed as an excellent typist. Admin jobs are often outsourced to agency's these days as well, so she should look into those vs. the actual hiring co's.

My MC didn't directly hire AAs as employees for the past decade, but every VP had one via an agency/outsource supplier.

I agree she needs help from someone who can market her experiences far better than she (or you, OP) can.
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Old 04-11-2018, 12:41 PM   #17
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^^^^^^This. She should try to get work through a temp agency. We (my corp) used to do that and when we found a good one, hired the person full time.
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Old 04-11-2018, 01:38 PM   #18
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It also looks like she need to rightsize her life.... housing, car, etc.
I know little about jobs since it has been forever since I had one. But I have (modestly) helped a few older women in my area find very nice subsidized rental housing. Rarely does one want to live in all-age subsidized-housing, but once you get older (and the age of eligibility varies with the place), there are many buildings operated by social organizations that are very nice, the tenants are not dangerous, and the apartments may rent for as little as 1/3 of the open market price.

Ha
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Old 04-11-2018, 02:14 PM   #19
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She's got a lot going so maybe help her tackle one problem at a time. She most likely has an apartment lease, and car lease payments. Put the outgo on the back burner and assist as much as you can with the job issue. You can maybe guide and help her on the spending end when she realizes her money won't stretch to cover her expenses.
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Old 04-11-2018, 02:46 PM   #20
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OP here, yes SIL has a lease on her apartment with several months to go (she says she will move somewhere less expensive when the lease ends) and the car lease has at least a year to go. I will tell her your suggestions re the job front. Thanks everyone for the excellent suggestions. I think she has already started doing some marketing/networking for her home based work. I know she has her name in at some temp agencies, they tell her there is not much demand for her skills.

At some point she had a part time job in retail so she is looking into that too. She has an interview with a clothing store this week but it won't pay much but it will be better than nothing.
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